I understand and have understood what in Buddhism is linked to right effort, which involves aspiring to what is skillful and abandoning what is unskillful.

Yet, I wonder: How do practitioners proceed in terms of order or in terms of determining what to do next? How does one determine what is most important?

Thank you


5 Answers 5


Not just my own understanding, but a standard teaching is to approach things gradually, from coarse to subtle.

First, we have to stop creating major sources of trouble for ourselves. How do we do that? By following five precepts. Then, we stop creating medium-sized issues, by following the behavioral parts of the Eightfold Path. Then we stop creating subtler types of problems, by learning to control our emotions. Then, we get to subtle problems, by engaging in Samatha meditation to learn to stop compulsory thinking and inner dialog. Then, very subtle problems, by getting rid of egoistic perspectives. Then, ultrasubtle problems, by letting go of attachment to perfection and spirituality. Then extremely ultrasubtle problems, by practicing groundless suchness. These are just examples, you get the idea.

This is taught in many schools, and by many teachers. One thing at a time, by size, do the bigger stuff first. Stop creating large problems first.


There's a non-Buddhist saying, "Put the big rocks in first".

I understood that to mean "duty first", i.e. don't neglect what it might be immoral or unwise to neglect.

There's a Zen story, Wash your bowl -- that I suppose is meant to be instructive. Or maybe Zen people will stereo-typically "sweep the floor" or something like that. Is that aspirational, perhaps you might want to reach a stage of simplicity (of other-duties-having-been-finished) in life that there is no more to do than to "sweep the floor"? Is that an aspect of "liberation"?

I don't know but I get the impression that life in a monastery is regulated, i.e. that there are rules about what to do when, and how (e.g. rules to follow if you're a monk newly-arrived in a monastery).


The order is in the 3 fold training is

  • sila
  • samadhi
  • panna

Having said that dana proceeds sila. The 3 main merits are

  • dana
  • sila
  • bavana

Bavana incudes samadhi and panna.

So do,

  • dana
  • sila
  • samadhi
  • panna

This is a gradual training starting from simpler like dana to more advanced like panna. This is like building a house. What you want is a roof above your head (panna). Do do that one has to have walls to support (samadhi). Walls need to be on a strong foundation (Sila).

Right effect is to prevent unwholesome and develop wholesome my guarding the sense doors.

After right effort come right mindfulness. Order of practice is given here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path. Namely, items 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2

The stating from panna is for the very intelligent out of the 4 types of people.


When you first learn to drive a car, do you learn how to start the car on one day, how to accelerate on the second day, how to brake on the third day, how to turn the steering wheel to the left on the fourth day and how to turn the steering wheel to the right on the fifth day? No. It doesn't make sense. You have to learn and develop these steps altogether in tandem, and practise them together.

Another example is this. When you learn to cook, would you learn to cut vegetables on one day, then learn how to wash ingredients on another day, then learn to boil on another day, then learn to simmer on another day and so on? No. Instead, you learn and practise them altogether at once by trying to cook a certain recipe. By practising them together, you slowly deepen your cooking skills. You would then expand to add frying, broiling, baking, steaming, poaching, sauteeing etc. to your techniques, but you would practise them together in one recipe.

Similarly, in the case of the Noble Eightfold Path, you would have to first cultivate Right View (the forerunner of the path) by learning the Buddha's teachings (the Dhamma). Then you would start developing Right Resolve, and decide to take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, and practise the five precepts (which form the core part of the virtues - Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood).

As you deepen your progress into Right View by studying more of the Dhamma, you then increase your knowledge of the virtues (Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood) and try to practise them with more fervour. That's more of Right Resolve and Right Effort being applied.

As you deepen your contemplation of the teachings, you start cultivating Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, and then go into the meditation practices. These meditation practices would then lead you to better understanding of the Dhamma through first hand experience, which is improving the Right View once again. If you stumble into the five hindrances during meditation, you may need to deepen your practice of the virtues once again. This of course again is applying Right Resolve and Right Effort towards making progress in meditation and cultivation of wisdom.

So, every step helps the other. You can't practise only one of them at a time. But of course, learning the Dhamma and practising virtues tend to come before meditation, in general. This is just as in the case where you need to start a car and accelerate, before braking, but you would anyway do them in one session of driving, with repetition of all the steps as needed, to take you to your destination.

Even if you have not tried to meditate, if you continually reflect and ponder upon the teachings (that you have studied) and see how they match your experiences in life, you would still begin to understand the teachings from first hand experience. Then meditation could still progressively come later.


I understand and have understood what in Buddhism is linked to right effort


What next to do?

No next to do, homework fist, householder, just this and the rest comes by it's causes. Samadhi come by/on that cause. Understanding comes by/on that cause. If not perfect now, no change to progress:

Right effort:

1. "One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one's right effort...->

"One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve: This is one's right effort...->

"One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one's right effort...->

"One tries to abandon wrong action & to enter into right action: This is one's right effort...->

"One tries to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter into right livelihood: This is one's right effort."->

-> and back to 1.

And what is right view, metta?

"And how is one made pure in three ways by mental action? There is the case where a certain person is not covetous. He does not covet the belongings of others, thinking, 'O, that what belongs to others would be mine!' He bears no ill will and is not corrupt in the resolves of his heart. [He thinks,] 'May these beings be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and may they look after themselves with ease!' He has right view and is not warped in the way he sees things: 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are brahmans & contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is how one is made pure in three ways by mental action."

Could one go on if still having debts?? No. If he runs away it's just a matter of time that he will be caught up again.

Only once the home-task has been done, one can leave the own made prison and progress. No ways to do such for one holding, bound on a house, stand.

(Note that this is not given for trade, exchange, stacks, entertainment and akusala deeds, but as a share of merits and to continue such for release)

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